The Who in Toronto

The Who was scheduled to play Toronto in early June, but then the Raptors made the NBA Finals and the show was rescheduled at the start of the tour’s second leg. Which means I’d been avoiding Who setlists for almost four months – and boy, am I glad I did.

The tour’s central conceit – the Who with an orchestra – didn’t matter to me, nor, I would imagine, the rest of the audience. It added a little, especially during the Tommy and Quadrophenia segments, but one of my favourite moments of the entire night was when the orchestra left the stage and Pete broke into “Substitute.”

This was a special night. I was a mess during the first few songs.

Set:

With orchestra:

  • Overture
  • 1921
  • Amazing Journey
    At this point I began to wonder if we might be getting Tommy front-to-back. Let me be clear: I was openly weeping during the Overture. A full performance of Tommy might’ve ended me. But then…
  • Pinball Wizard
  • We’re Not Gonna Take It
    I’d heard “See Me, Feel Me” and “Listening to You” at all but two of my previous Who shows, but never the first bit
  • Who Are You
  • Eminence Front
  • Imagine a Man (!)
  • Hero Ground Zero (new song!)

Band only:

  • Substitute (a first for me since 2002)
  • I Can See for Miles
  • The Seeker
  • Won’t Get Fooled Again (Pete and Roger solo acoustic; this was astonishing)
  • Behind Blue Eyes (with strings)

With orchestra:

  • Guantanamo [Pete Townshend] (now also a new Who song!)
  • The Real Me (Quadrophenia!!!!!)
  • I’m One
  • The Punk and the Godfather
  • 5:15
  • Drowned
  • The Rock
  • Love Reign O’er Me
    Roger blew his voice and/or his in-ear monitor malfunctioned. He struggled to the end, and then…
  • Baba O’Riley
    …couldn’t sing “Baba O’Riley,” which turned into an arena-wide karaoke number. Afterwards Roger stormed off stage, leaving Pete to deliver Roger’s usual “be lucky!” rejoinder.

I love this band. The Who still do things to me that no one, not even Pearl Jam, can do to me, and while Roger’s issues meant the show limped instead of charged to the finish line I was still so grateful for this night. Was in my last time seeing the Who? Cautiously, optimistically, no, especially not with a new album (!) in the offing – but I’ve made peace with that possibility (and, indeed, I’ve been making peace with that possibility pretty much since 2002). We’ll see what comes next, but in the meantime I’ve got this glorious night to remember.

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52 New Records

The following is a list of all the new records I’ve listened to since August 20, 2019:

  1. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold
  2. The Hold Steady, Thrashing Thru the Passion
    How nice of not one but two of my favourite bands to release new music on my birthday!
  3. Frank Turner, No Man’s Land
    Frank Turner did, too; it took me a while to warm up to No Man’s Land, which is “a concept album about women from history,” but it was worth sticking around for
  4. Craig Finn, I Need a New War
  5. Taylor Swift, Lover
  6. Maggie Rogers, Heard It In A Past Life
  7. Lana Del Rey, Norman F*****g Rockwell
  8. Tool, Fear Inoculum
  9. Harley Poe, Have a Great Life.
  10. Company, 2018 London Cast Recording (which was released in 2019…)
  11. The Glorious Sons, A War on Everything
  12. Ryan Hamilton and The Harlequin Ghosts, This is the Sound
  13. Soccer Mommy, Clean
  14. The New Pornographers, In the Morse Code of Brake Lights
  15. Foo Fighters, 01070725

(Updated October 10, 2019)

Smashing Pumpkins in Toronto, 2019 Edition

A week and four days after last year’s reunion tour bonanza came this considerably shorter co-headlining show alongside Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. The Pumpkins were good; Jimmy Chamberlin remains a drumming god. The setlist was weird – maybe not Summersault 2000 “screw you, fans!” weird, but when you’re playing an hour-and-a-half-long show you probably shouldn’t even be thinking about including “Blue Skies Bring Tears.” Just sayin’.

Of course, you probably shouldn’t even be thinking about including “The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right)” either, yet hearing that song brought me closer to ecstasy than anything this side of “Thru the Eyes of Ruby.”

Set:

  • Today
  • Zero
  • Solara
  • Knights of Malta
  • Eye (why?)
  • Bullet with Butterfly Wings
  • Tiberius
  • G.L.O.W.
    I don’t know why I know every word to this song; I might’ve listened to a lot more of the “G.L.O.W.” single that I thought
  • Disarm
  • Superchrist
    “Superchrist” is the b-side to the “G.L.O.W.” single; for those keeping track, that’s two songs from a single that, like, eight people in the audience might’ve heard and zero songs from Gish…though as one of those eight people, I loved hearing this.
  • Fire and Rain [James Taylor]
  • Ava Adore
  • 1979
  • Tonight Tonight
  • Blue Skies Bring Tears
    There are 15 songs on MACHINA/the machines of god; “Blue Skies Bring Tears” is about the 14th best, with only “The Crying Tree of Mercury” propping it up, and I’ve inexplicably heard both of them live at the Molson Amphitheatre/Budweiser Stage
  • Cherub Rock
  • The Aeroplane Flies High (Turns Left, Looks Right) (bliss)

Up next, for the second time since March: KISS! Plus, turning 39!

Changes

I started a new job today.

It’s temporary, but it’s something I’ve been wanting to do for literally years. Between now and mid-October I’m part of the academic advising team for U of T’s Division of Engineering Science. And I think I’m gonna like it.

I’ll be back at my former gig early in November – but this year, for the first time since 2005, I won’t be travelling during the fall. I can’t explain how happy this makes me. “You can’t do something forever,” as Bob Dylan’s alleged to have once said, and while student recruitment’s been an incredible adventure thus far (giving me, among other things, the chance to see the world, change people’s lives and meet my wife) it’s time to try something different. Plus, from a wellness point of view, it’d become increasingly evident that I needed a change. I am, to all intents and purposes, OCD-free…except when I’m on the road, at which point I tend to experience an appreciable increase in my symptoms. In April, I realized that uptick’s less about OCD itself and more my brain’s way of telling me to slow down. For a while, I had it in my mind that I’d be letting OCD “win” if I stopped travelling. But in April I realized if this was, in fact, a competition between me and OCD that I’d already won, and that I needed to start listening to my body.

So here we are – across the street from my former (and, indeed, future) office, but ready for a brand-new adventure. I can’t wait to get started and to see where this leads down the road.

The Rolling Stones at Burl’s Creek

It’d been 14 years since I’d last seen the Rolling Stones. The fact they’re still together, let alone that some of the individual band members are alive, is impressive. The fact that yesterday’s show was even better than that one at the Rogers Centre in 2005 was damned near miraculous.

More to follow, including thoughts about the Burl’s Creek experience (horrendous) and watching the love of your life hear her favourite band play her favourite song (made the Burl’s Creek experience not just worthwhile but something I’d do all over again).

Set:

  • Street Fighting Man
  • Let’s Spend the Night Together
  • Tumbling Dice
  • Sad Sad Sad
  • She’s a Rainbow (by request) (“She’s a Rainbow” is Sam’s all-time favourite song; for her, this was hearing “Hard to Imagine,” “Naked Eye” and “Thugs” all rolled into one, so while she was watching the band, I was watching her)
  • You Can’t Always Get What You Want
  • Angie (b-stage; acoustic)
  • Dead Flowers (b-stage; acoustic)
  • Sympathy for the Devil
  • Honky Tonk Women
  • Slipping Away (Keith Richards on vocals)
  • Before They Make Me Run (Keith Richards on vocals)
  • Miss You
  • Paint It Black
  • Midnight Rambler (I’d heard these last two songs before – but not since my first time seeing the Stones, in Minneapolis in 1999. “Midnight Rambler” was the one song I wanted to hear yesterday and was therefore my personal highlight, but aside from that it was a total and utter show-stopper, with first Mick and then Ron Wood – Ron Wood! – taking turns stealing the show)
  • Start Me Up
  • Jumping Jack Flash
  • Brown Sugar

Encore:

  • Gimme Shelter (!)
  • Satisfaction

Last night could – could – have been our last time seeing the Stones, and if it was then it was a fine, final concert. But I hope it wasn’t. I want to see this band again so I can continue marveling at their ongoing existence – not just as musicians, or even as human beings for that matter, but as still-vital artists five-and-a-half decades into their careers. In the end, no one else does it like them.